A new report from the Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland concludes that immigrants bring a plethora of economic, social, and cultural contributions to the state of Maryland. The commission, which was created by the Maryland General Assembly, also warns against attempts to deal with unauthorized immigration through enforcement-only policies that needlessly sow fear and distrust in immigrant communities. Rather, the commission admonishes, “Maryland must remain welcoming to immigrants, and the state and its local jurisdictions should further strengthen its efforts to integrate immigrants into the economy and the community.”

The commission’s report, entitled The Impact of Immigrants in Maryland, begins with a survey of the available literature on the economics of immigration and concludes that, “in general, immigration leads to higher economic growth and greater levels of income per capita not only for the immigrants themselves, but, on average, for the U.S.-born persons as well.” As the report notes, immigrants don’t steal jobs from the native-born because immigrants and native-born workers tend to have different, “complementary” sets of skills. Moreover, immigrants fuel entrepreneurship and innovation. The report also finds that “in aggregate and over the long term, immigrants pay more in taxes (federal, state, and local) than they use in government services.”

With regard to the economy of Maryland in particular, the report emphasizes that “immigrants have made considerable contributions to Maryland’s leading industries in the information, science, and medical fields.” In addition, “Maryland’s growth in construction, travel, retail, transportation, farming and fishing sectors was greatly supported through immigration.” According to the report, “it is doubtful that without immigration, the State could have lured enough U.S.-born workers from slower growing parts of the country to fill these positions.”

The report reaches a number of conclusions not only about the benefits of immigration to Maryland, but about which policies maximize those benefits and which policies stifle them. For instance:

  • “A systematic and bipartisan approach to federal immigration reform is essential for a healthy nation and for Maryland.” In other words, the federal government needs to act soon; there is only so much that any state government can do in the absence of immigration reform at the national level.
  • “A healthy and growing economy needs immigrants of all types.” Maryland’s economy needs, and will continue to need, ready access to both highly skilled and less-skilled immigrants in a wide range of occupations and industries.
  • “Programs that enroll local law agencies in enforcing immigration law can work against the interests of Maryland’s communities.” In particular, the report “found several important problems common to the Secure Communities and 287(g) programs.” Secure Communities is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program to identify immigrants in U.S. prisons who are deportable. Under 287(g) agreements, DHS delegates immigration-enforcement powers to local police. Most of the immigrants deported under both Secure Communities and 287(g) have no serious criminal history, which runs contrary to the stated aims of the programs themselves. The report recommends that police departments in Maryland steer clear of 287(g).
  • “To ensure Maryland’s continued global economic and technical leadership, the state must redouble its efforts to provide superior education at every level to all young residents, including the foreign-born, regardless of immigration status.” The reason is simple: “a more educated person is good for our society. They earn more money and are more engaged in the community. They are better informed workers, consumers and voters.” Needless to say, the report opposes any policy which would deny access to education to children who are unauthorized immigrants.

With this report, the Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland offers a concise summary of the many ways in which Maryland benefits from the presence of immigrants. The report is also a useful roadmap for crafting policies that leverage the contributions of immigrants rather than undermine them. Communities which adopt policies that treat immigrants as the enemy only succeed in tearing themselves apart.

Photo by sorakirei.

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